Since I was a kid, there has been one type of nightmare that haunts me to this day.( I just turned 30 this year) Zombies!
Yeah. I’ve been plague by Zombie nightmares all my life. Not on a daily basis, but occasionally I will have these dreams. They always consist of me running for my life, being chased by swarms of these god-forsaken creatures of the damned. Although in theory, it’s relatively easy for one to avoid getting killed by Zombies. Since they’re re-animated corpses that have a very limited limb dexterity. But we are talking about nightmares. So in my dreams, I always have issues running. At times my legs feel like they were filled with lead, slowing me to a point of crawl. Then there’s always that asshole Zombie that bites either my leg or arm. Forcing me to either join them or blow my brains out with a shotgun. I always chose the latter.
Anyways…. So I had this horrible nightmare last night. Zombies of course. That led me to wake up and look out my window. L.A. was till smokey and red around 6 am from the california wildfires. I got dressed and walked to the Gym for my daily run. The streets were emptied and filled with smoke with ashes snowing down. The buses very few and far in between. No vendors nor religious fanatics yelling in the corners. No Zombies. I said to myself: “If these fuckers come out right now, at least I have on my running shoes”.
So what is it about these creatures that we fear? The true story of the Zombie is mixed up with the Hollywood version of the brain-eating Zombie to the working-slave Zombie of Haiti.
Of course we know that Hollywood has it wrong. Let’s entertain the idea that some gas was able to re-animate corpses and make them rise from their graves and feed on human flesh. OK fine. The still does not explain how in our “civilized” society we perform autopsies before burial and these things still manage to have motor skills. How do these shell-of-a-human beings have the motor skills to walk? Let alone attack? such a blatant disregard to logic. I still love Zombie films though.
So what about Haiti and it’s slave Zombies?
Haiti is largely a Roman-Catholic country. Most Haitians recognize Voodoo and it’s powers and tend to shy away from that particular religion. Western Society mostly assumes Voodoo is bad and used to kill or bewitch someone, forcing them to do something they normally would not do.
Although Catholicism and Christianity reign, Voodoo is still practiced. One of the most fascinating things that I’ve read about voodoo involves the process of making a Zombie. Not the type of Zombie the western world knows, but a different type. A worker Zombie.
How is it possible to create a zombie? It’s not at all logical. The dead cannot be brought back to life by a simple prayer and some spells. Well….again. This is not the Hollywood Zombie.
In Voodoo, you do not randomly chose a recently deceased and bring them back to life for your own benefit (or someone else’s for that matter). No, in Voodoo the Zombie is chosen beforehand and never really killed. Here is where it gets controversial.
Dr. Wade Davis, famous for writing the book “The Serpent and the Rainbow” about the Zombies of Haiti, meticulously documented and catalog the process used to create Zombies by the Haitian Voodoo priests/priestess. In his research he was able to obtain some samples of the ingredients that go into the Zombie powder. Upon analyses, it was discovered that one of the ingredients was the chemical Tetrodotoxin. Which is found mainly on Puffer fish. Tetrodotoxin has the ability to paralyze a person to a point where medical instruments cannot detect heartbeats nor movement.
This has been proven by cases of Puffer fish poisoning mainly in Japan and one famously cataloged in San Diego California in the early 1990s. John Zamora lives in San Diego and is one of the rare victims of Puffer fish poisoning here in the United States. Mr. Zamora had ingested some dried Puffer fish that was illegally sent to him and within seconds was feeling the toxic Tetrodotoxin take effect.
Once rushed by ambulance to the E.R, the medical equipment barely could detect a heartbeat. Mr. Zamora described this ordeal as being paralyzed and fully conscious, but unable to talk, move or even blink. The effects of the Tetrodotoxin poison were much like that of a characteristic of a Haitian Zombie.
So, it is believed that a Voodoo practitioner can poison their victim, have them be declared clinically dead and with the cover of darkness, unearth the body late in the night and wake them up from their “sleep”. using sporadic poisoning to keep the victim in between reality and a somber state of mind in order to create Zombies.
Sounds much like Sci-fi. Maybe so. But let’s take into consideration Clairvius Narcisse.
Clairvius Narcisse was a Haitian man that had died in 1962 and was pronounced dead in a Haitian hospital. Death records were filed and preparations were made. The mortician examined the body, wrote a report and sealed the coffin himself. Since Mr. Narcisse’s family was extremely poor, they were not able to encrypt the tomb right after the burial. A few weeks after the burial, is when they managed to have enough money to make a crypt for Clairvius.
In 1964, Clairvius Narcisse’s Bokor (sorcerer) had died of natural causes. Clairvius had claimed that he was on of a few other Zombies that were a victim of the sorcerer forced to work on the sugar cane fields. It is believed that after the Bokor’s death, the daily dosages of poison stopped. Helping Clairvius and others regain health and come back to their senses.
It’s documented that Clairvius Narcisse walked casually into a hospital complaining about a hernia. The Doctor that saw him, wrote down in his report in 1964 that the patient complained of a hernia and that he was a Zombie.
Upon Clairvius’ release from the hospital, he made his way back to his village. Where family members recognized him.
Clairvius Narcisse. Found coherent after being buried alive and the death of his captor.
We cannot prove nor disprove the zombification process of a Haitian sorcerer since very little is known (or told). We do know that Tetrodotoxin is a very strong neurotoxin that can paralyze a person. Rendering them lifeless before death. It’s not a far stretch in imagination to think of a situation where a Zombie can be made using this process.
As the california wildfires consume countless acres and I sit here in my downtown loft, looking out my window as I type, I can’t help but stare off into the hazy red sun and be reminded of hordes of Zombies clumsily making their way up the streets. If they are, what should I do? run? find a Machete and a Shotgun and hack and shoot my way through?
Zombie kit: Machete, Shield and a Shotgun